There's nothing like hitching a ride on a partner's voluminous installed base to get a new product or service into the market fast. Looks like that's what PodShow has done by hooking up with AOL and its new AIM Pro offering announced today.
PodShowPRO is providing, or so the press release says, an integrated platform for businesses to create, host, manage, and distribute B2B podcasts. A quick visit to pro.podshow.com doesn't show much in the way of B2B platform or services, however. Is it beta? Or perhaps not fully available from the web site yet? Even the release is not on the site yet.
Nonetheless, these PodShow-created B2B podcasts, or a directory of them, would be available through the new AIM Pro product, a potentially huge audience. Sounds good for PodShow. But what does this mean to businesses that may want to create B2B podcasts -- not just to enrich PodShow's menu of content and service AOL's need for differentiation -- but more importantly to directly bond with and bind to their communities of listeners and/or customers?
I have to say that what appears to be a hasty release by PodShow to benefit from the AIM Pro release date buzz only raises more questions than it answers. And I'm trying to keep an open mind, given that I produce sponsored B2B informational podcasts -- and would love to see greater options for distribution of them to B2B-minded audiences. I'm also interested because I've been a founding, albeit non-paid, contributor for more than two years to the Gillmor Gang podcast, which is a PodShow production.
So, keeping an open mind, let me try and get this PodShowPRO thing straight: Businesses can soon go to PodShowPRO and have an easy, podcast-as-a-service benefit for producing and hosting podcasts, and then make them easily available via PodShow channels (including AIM Pro) to audiences of interest drawn to the topics, information, products, and companies. So far, so good.
However, why would a business want to have their podcast content principally available on PodShow? Is PodShow's business-class audience -- drawn, no doubt, to the Dawn and Drew Show -- that large, or deep? Is the AIM Pro association enough of a boost to instantly make PodShow the high-velocity avenue to the top decision-makers in the Global Fortune 2000? On the other end of the scale, will small businesses get noticed by being ushered to their niche audiences by the technical sophistication of the PodShow platform?
Wouldn't it instead make a lot more sense for businesses to produce their podcast/blog/vlog content independently, and then guide it into their existing marketing and sales channels, further enjoy the wonders of the blogosphere for viral distribution -- and then perhaps also enjoy the benefits of podcast directories like PodShow and iTunes for re-distributing the content?
Would it make sense for Apple's iTunes to allow businesses to directly produce their podcast content only on iTunes, even though it has the greatest audience distribution reach in the world? Maybe, but somehow that's not Apple's business, I don't think. Apple doesn't produce the music on iTunes, for obvious reasons, and they should not produce the B2B podcasts, also for obvious reasons. And for the same reasons it doesn't make sense for PodShow to become the host-cum-producer of a business's go-to-market informational content. It defeats the purpose of the openness of the medium, and the Internet.
This whole thing just opens a lot of tough questions. Now, there was some negative reactions to PodShow's recent re-design which seemed to tinker with RSS feeds, and PodShow said it was in error and moved to change that feed treatment quickly. That was the right thing to do.
But what PodShow is apparently proposing now with PodShowPRO is nothing like hijacking a feed, it is more like giving businesses a free (for a time) and automated way to produce podcast content that then only appears via a PodShow feed or channel, and which may end up being lumped in with other similar content in a PodShow B2B channel, and then surrounded by PodShow advertisements. Did I miss anything?
So if I'm a small business, I make my podcasts via PodShowPRO and they then produce it in their channels, and AIM Pro, "eliminating the complications faced by individuals attempting to subscribe to podcast feeds," according to their press release. This last sentence gives me the creeps. It should give AOL the creeps too.
You mean let PodShow, under the guise of ease-of-use, get between you as a company and your customers, communities, prospects, social networks, and leads. Let them hijack your creative informational juices, and years of experiences in business verticals. All because RSS to too darn hard.
Hey, managing RSS feeds either as a producer or a subscriber is not that hard, and will only get easier. Hey, Mr. Business Marketer, if managing your RSS is too complex, ask anyone in IT department or the mail room to straighten you out -- in about five minutes. And, in doing so you get to keep your content, your channels, your feeds, your audience, your customers. YOU keep them. That's the whole point.
Hell, PodShow doesn't even have a B2B audience to sell you. I guess AOL does, though I'm not sure I'd want my business communications going out via AIM. These "platforms" want you, the business, to create the audience based on the demand for your quality content, and then make money from it while restricting your access to your audience. Did I miss anything?
You don't need PodShow or any other media company to build out your audience for you. That's the joy of it all, finally. Folks in the business world, get your own feeds, manage them yourselves, cultivate your own audiences, create your own content. The idea of today's media-marketing landscape is to eliminate the middlemen, not add in new ones.